Mouths to feed

It’s difficult to imagine having so little money that you can’t even go to the supermarket and buy food for yourself. Being in this situation must be hard enough. But knowing that there’s nothing in the cupboard to feed your children must be incredibly upsetting. Earlier this year, a documentary called ‘Famous Rich and Hungry’ was made as part of Comic Relief. It followed four celebrities who were temporarily living with families experiencing food poverty. It was an insightful programme that I hope raised awareness of the fact that even in places like the UK, there are large numbers of people living in poverty. If you missed ‘Famous Rich and Hungry’, you can watch a clip here:

This was not the only parent filmed who expressed guilt at eating food that could have been given to his children instead. Another single mother described how she ensures her daughter always eats, even if it means starving herself, so that her daughter is healthy and happy and can concentrate on her school work.

This week at the food bank, I was particularly struck by two mothers who came in. The first was an Asian lady with a young son and a daughter, both of whom were impeccably behaved. The boy played quietly on a chair with toys from our toy box while his mother waited for their food parcel. It’s obviously important to remain open minded when volunteering, because you often come into contact with people from different backgrounds to your own. That being said, the fact that the two children were as good as gold, rather than screaming brats, did make me warm to the family more. When the mother had collected their food and it was time to go, the boy shyly said thank you and goodbye, and then the mother noticed her daughter was still clutching a soft toy from the toy box. It was a well worn, nondescript grey animal of some sort, to which the girl has obviously taken a liking. As the mother went to take the toy away from her daughter, one of the volunteers told her she could keep it. It was one of those small but quite heart warming moments to see how pleased the mother was; the kind that reminded me why I’ve always enjoyed volunteering.

Later that afternoon, another mum came in to the food bank with her daughter. Afternoons can be tricky. Often by lunch time we’ve run out of most of the supermarket donated fresh fruit and vegetables (except potatoes – we always have mounds of them), and things like eggs and toiletries. On Monday we were in short supply of several items throughout the day and by the time late afternoon had come around, we were out of cereal and biscuits, and the treat box was empty. We were gutted to find out that it was the girl’s seventh birthday, as we had absolutely nothing in the way of treats, despite having had two cakes and several bars/boxes of chocolates in earlier. When it comes to food banks, it really is the luck of the draw, but it was pretty hard sending away a seven year old with nothing special for her birthday.

The clients I meet at the food bank are always incredibly grateful for whatever we are able to give them; when they say thank you for their food parcel, it’s obvious how much they mean it. It’s a heartfelt thank you, rather than a courteous thank you. It’s touching to hear the gratitude in a client’s voice, but sometimes – especially when there are children there – a few bags of food doesn’t seem like enough.

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